The Definitive Water Quality F.A.Q. (Frequently Asked Questions)

What Are The Main Pollutants Found In Water?

Water pollutants come in several specific and defined classes. The first are disease-causing agents. These are the bacteria, viruses, protozoa and parasitic worms that enter sewage systems and untreated waste water.

A second category of water pollutants is oxygen-demanding wastes; wastes that are broken down at the molecular level by oxygen-requiring  or aerobic bacteria. When large populations of decomposing bacteria are converting these waste and by products, it can deplete oxygen levels in the water source. This often causes other organisms which depend on oxygen in the water, such as fish, to die.

A third class of water pollutants is water-soluble inorganic pollutants, such as acids, salts and toxic metals. Large quantities of these compounds will make water unfit to drink, as well as cause the death of aquatic life.  (See the recent Flint Michigan scandal on the threat of Lead in their water supply).

Another class of water pollutants are nutrients; they are water-soluble nitrates and phosphates that cause excessive growth of algae and other water plants, which deplete the water’s oxygen supply. This kills fish and, when found in drinking water, can even kill young children.

Water can also be polluted by a number of organic compounds such as oil, plastics and pesticides, which are harmful to humans and all plants and animals in the water.

A very dangerous category is suspended sediment, because it causes depletion in the water’s light absorption and the particles spread dangerous compounds such as pesticides through the water.

Finally, water-soluble radioactive compounds can cause cancer, birth defects and genetic damage and are thus very dangerous water pollutants.

“How do I detect water pollution in my home’s tap water?”

Water pollution use to be only detected in laboratories, where small samples of water are analysed for different contaminants. Technology has improved such that convenient testing tools can be brought to locations where water polution is suspected.  Living organism testing, on  fish for example, can also be used for the detection of water pollution. Changes in organism behavior or growth can illustrate to water testing professionals how water they live in is polluted. Specific ailments and biological markers in these organisms can give insight and actionable data on the extent of pollution in their environment. Laboratories can also feed water testing data to computer models to determine if and what dangers are in the tested water. Such testing is the most thorough and data driven way to get precise information about a water supply’s impurities and contaminants.  However, today’s In Home Water Tests are quite sufficient to provide actionable assessments on water quality.

What is eutrophication, what causes it and what are the dangers?

Eutrophication means the natural occurring nutrient enrichment of streams and lakes. However, this normal enrichment cycle is often increased by human activities such as agriculture processes (like manure addition). Over time, lakes can then become “eutrophic” due to such an increase.

Eutrophication is primarily caused by an increase in nitrate and phosphate levels and has a negative influence on water life. Such enrichment can cause algae to “bloom” or flourish. As a result the water will absorb less sunlight which aides certain aerobic bacteria to diminish. With oxygen levels depleting further, anaerobic bacteria fill the vacuum and then thrive. Such changes in Water Quality make life in the water impossible for fish and other organisms. A well know natural occurrence of bacteria affecting other organisms are the Red Tides on the Texas Coast.

What is acid rain and how does it develop?

Typical rainwater has a pH of between 5 and 6. That it the naturally neutral, slightly acidic state of this important liquid to our lives. During precipitation rainwater dissolves gasses such as carbon dioxide and oxygen. Industries world wide now emit tremendous amounts of acidifying gasses, such as sulfuric oxides and carbon monoxide, that also dissolve in the rainwater that eventually supplies our drinking water. The resulting changes in pH of the rainwater can cause the pH to dip below 4. Alarmingly, when a substance has a pH of below 6.5, it is commonly classified as an acid. Thus, when this phenomena was discovered when industrial emissions became tracked and quantified, such water was acid rain.

 “Why does my water sometimes smell like rotten eggs?”

Good question, and one we get all the time.  When water is enriched with nutrients, eventually anaerobic bacteria, which do not need oxygen to survive, thrive and multiply. These bacteria produce certain gasses as a by product of their colonizing your drinking water. One of the gases they secrete is hydrogen sulfide. That’s the culprit right there, that is making your tap water smell so foul, like rotten eggs. When water smells like that, it’s a smart bet it is because of the hydrogen sulfide.  This is easily fixed by a whole house water filter, which prevents the organisms from affecting water coming thru all taps.

What causes white deposit on showers and bathroom walls?

Water contains many many compounds, two of which are calcium and carbonate. Carbonate works as a buffer in water and is thus a very important component to great tasting and healthy water.

When calcium interacts with carbonate present in tap water, a solid substance is formed called lime. This lime is what causes the white deposit on showers and bathroom walls and is commonly known as “lime deposit”. It can be removed by using a specially suited cleaning agent, and thoroughly prevented by a whole house water filtration system.  Extensive build up in water carrying plumbing is called “Limescale”

What is heat pollution, what causes it and what are the dangers?

In most manufacturing processes heat is created that must be vented or released into the environment, as “waste heat”. Many manufacturers opt for  an inexpensive resource to do this, nearby surface water.  Water can be passed thru the manufacturer plant, used to cool down any high heat processes, and then returned to the surface water source from which it came.  The heat that is released in the water source by this higher temperature return water can have negative effects on all life in the water source. This kind of pollution is commonly called “heat pollution” or “thermal pollution”.

The warmer water decreases the solubility of oxygen in the water and it also causes water organisms to breathe faster. Many water organisms will then die from oxygen shortages, or they become more susceptible to diseases.

For more information about this, you can take a look at thermal pollution.

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